Navy 6th Generation Fighter

Military aircraft - Post cold war aircraft, including for example B-2, Gripen, F-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, and Typhoon.
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loke

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Unread post20 Apr 2021, 12:46

boogieman wrote:IIRC the wargame was set in the 2030's, so there's not much point "bothering" with a 2021 F35 in a 2030s timeframe. The jet will be post Block 4 by then, and even more capable.

Perhaps the "issue" is that upgrading some of the older F-35 to block 4 will be quite expensive, and perhaps the point they were trying to make was that if a decision to not upgrade is made, then the utility of those F-35 will be very limited, in spite of being considered very capable today.

Also, reading between the lines, it seems to me that the "issue" top management in USAF is that they realize that inherent limitations of the F-35A means that in spite of the massive amounts of money put into the program (and with more needed, see above) the F-35A can only play a somewhat "limited" role in the Asia-Pacific, mainly due to "insufficient range" for some of the scenarios being considered. F-35 is great for European theater but does not have long enough legs for Asia-Pacific. It seems USN is reaching a similar conclusion for the F-35C (and SH also of course).

The "issue" with the F-35 is that since it's eating so much of the budget, it will be difficult to get something in place that can address the shortcomings. Perhaps the cheapest and best would be to accelerate development of stealthy tanker drones, the USN is already working on that. Mass produce them, and deploy together with F-35 (in the Asia-pacific).

IMHO the US is in a difficult situation right now. For example, the Pentagon cannot even correctly identify "spy drones" (most likely Chinese, although some may also be Russian): https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/4 ... heyre-ufos

:doh:

The Chinese are very active now, in particular around Taiwan and the Senkakus, but also in the Philippines EEZ -- there are reasons for this, and most likely one being that they have sufficient intelligence on the current US military capabilities, that they no longer fear those capabilities like they used to.

Winter is coming.
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loke

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Unread post20 Apr 2021, 12:52

The US is "messaging" by sending 4 F-16 with 5 AMRAAMs each, to the South China Sea....

The question is, what kind of message they are sending:

Nevertheless, extensive tanker support was still required, with at least four different Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers identified in the strategic channel area south of Taiwan, based on online flight tracking data.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/4 ... r-missiles

Four F-16 and four tankers to "deliver" 20 AMRAAMs -- no doubt the F-35 can do much better, but the weakness seems still pretty clear. One should also keep in mind that the pk of those missiles is never 100%... so you need much more than 20 missiles to take out 20 targets, and substantially more if the number of targets happen to be 25...

At the same time that the F-16s were conducted their armed patrol, the People’s Liberation Army was sending no fewer than 25 aircraft into Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ, comprising 14 J-16 and four J-10 multirole fighters, four H-6K missile-carrying bombers, two KQ-200 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.
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boogieman

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Unread post20 Apr 2021, 13:11

loke wrote:Perhaps the "issue" is that upgrading some of the older F-35 to block 4 will be quite expensive, and perhaps the point they were trying to make was that if a decision to not upgrade is made, then the utility of those F-35 will be very limited, in spite of being considered very capable today.

Seems more likely that this is your imagination at work. The F35 was always going to have a rigorous upgrade path ahead of it, just like its predecessors and any other modern jet, really.
the F-35A can only play a somewhat "limited" role in the Asia-Pacific

Compared to what aircraft?
...mainly due to "insufficient range" for some of the scenarios being considered. F-35 is great for European theater but does not have long enough legs for Asia-Pacific.

On what basis do you make this claim?
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loke

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Unread post20 Apr 2021, 13:36

boogieman wrote:
loke wrote:Perhaps the "issue" is that upgrading some of the older F-35 to block 4 will be quite expensive, and perhaps the point they were trying to make was that if a decision to not upgrade is made, then the utility of those F-35 will be very limited, in spite of being considered very capable today.

Seems more likely that this is your imagination at work. The F35 was always going to have a rigorous upgrade path ahead of it, just like its predecessors and any other modern jet, really.

I did not say that it did not have a "rigorous upgrade path" -- of course it has. I just tried to explain the cryptic message in the quote on the previous page that 3F would not suffice in 2030, and to me that comment only makes sense if somebody were to suggest to not upgrade a relevant number of F-35.
the F-35A can only play a somewhat "limited" role in the Asia-Pacific


Compared to what aircraft?

Not comparing to a specific aircraft, but comparing to the actual needs -- this has been stated numerous times, and recently more and more frequently. F-35 will have too short legs, and will be too dependent on tankers in future Asia-Pacific scenarios. Planners need to look at scenarios and figure out how to address the challenges presented by those scenarios. And the conclusion seems quite clear -- F-35 will play a key but nevertheless minor role in the Asia Pacific. And that's what is making the planners at Pentagon very concerned. They need something to address the short range of the F-35. We will see what they come up with (if anything at all).
...mainly due to "insufficient range" for some of the scenarios being considered. F-35 is great for European theater but does not have long enough legs for Asia-Pacific.

On what basis do you make this claim?
[/quote]
I am not making those claims -- analysts and planners are making those claims. Read the story linked to on the previous page, where they specifically mention the insufficient range of the F-35 for the Asia-Pacific.
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mixelflick

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Unread post20 Apr 2021, 18:20

The deployment of these 4 F-16CJ with a heavy air to air weapons to "send a message".... just highlights how much we need the F-35 IMO.

If the Chinese were simultaneously flying 14 J-16's, plus 4 J-10 with AWACS/other support aircraft - the only message 4 F-16's will send is what? It's certainly not much of a concern if things got hot. 4 F-35's OTOH, would be entirely another matter. Would NOT want to be in any of those Chinese fighters, with an unseen enemy slinging AMRAAM's my way.

Game changer...
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boogieman

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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 00:01

loke wrote:I did not say that it did not have a "rigorous upgrade path" -- of course it has. I just tried to explain the cryptic message in the quote on the previous page that 3F would not suffice in 2030, and to me that comment only makes sense if somebody were to suggest to not upgrade a relevant number of F-35.

Speak for yourself I guess. More likely he is simply acknowledging that Block 4 gives the F35 the weapons and capabilities that prepare it for the Asia-Pacific theatre of ~2030 (a counter-5th gen AAM in JATM, extended range standoff PGMs, anti-ship missiles).
loke wrote:Not comparing to a specific aircraft

Then your critique is missing important context. The F35’s practical range performance is comparable to (Raptor) or better than (Viper, Rhino, Growler) the bulk of the TACAIR fleet, so singling it out specifically as having inadequate range is misleading. The one jet in 2030 that might outperform it in some configs/mission profiles (Eagle & variants thereof) has its practical range stunted by its lack of sig reduction, rendering it entirely unsuitable for heavily contested airspace in a post-2030 peer-on-peer conflict, let alone the kind of penetrating mission profiles that the extra range is needed for in the first place. Cue discussions about arsenal planes and rear-echelon LACM patrols (F15EX).
loke wrote:I am not making those claims

Yes you are, don’t be bashful now ;-)
loke wrote:analysts and planners are making those claims.

By all means cite some then.
loke wrote:Read the story linked to on the previous page, where they specifically mention the insufficient range of the F-35 for the Asia-Pacific.

At no point in that story or the one it references did any “analysts or planners” make this assertion. Noting where the limits of the F35’s range performance lie (& probably making a political case for NGAD in the process) is not the same as describing the jet's range as wholly insufficient for the theatre in general.

At any rate, significant range enhancements are already in the pipeline for Block 4 (F135 GO-2, possible EFTs) and Block 5 (variable bypass reengining ala XA101 or XA100), which ought to fall squarely in the 2030s, so your stealthy tanker drones are not the only growth option available by any stretch.
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steve2267

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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 01:51

Gums alluded to paper external drop tanks from a bygone era (WW2) in a different thread.

A potential solution (?) to the range dilemma confronting USAF planners in the Far East AO might be the development and use of disposable drop tanks (of the paper sort?) with some sort of integral mount. So when you punch the tanks, you revert to a complete VLO profile. You use the tanks to get you into the AO, punch them, then conduct the op and diddy on out on your internal fuel. Maybe you hit tankers (MQ-25 or otherwise) on the way out.

The problem with developing a whole new airframe (NGAD) is that if it must be VLO entirely, then it is going to be quite large to haul the gas necessary to have a combat radius of 1000nm or 1500nm or ??? Large aircraft mean heavy aircraft. Which means kinematic challenges and fiscal challenges (since aircraft are still bought by the pound.) Let's face it, you're not going to get an RC-5A / F-111 / YF-23+ sized aircraft for cheap, nor one with with super duper kinematics.

(Either elsewhere in this thread, or another thread, it was posited that the YF-23 had substantially greater range than the F-22. This claim was made without proof or citing any sources. Someone else suggested the F-23 may have had a 800nm combat radius. My point here being... that the F-23 may have had to be quite a bit larger to haul enough gas for a 1500nm radius... and that increased size would have adversely affected it's kinematic performance. FWIW.)
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Corsair1963

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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 06:55

steve2267 wrote:Gums alluded to paper external drop tanks from a bygone era (WW2) in a different thread.

A potential solution (?) to the range dilemma confronting USAF planners in the Far East AO might be the development and use of disposable drop tanks (of the paper sort?) with some sort of integral mount. So when you punch the tanks, you revert to a complete VLO profile. You use the tanks to get you into the AO, punch them, then conduct the op and diddy on out on your internal fuel. Maybe you hit tankers (MQ-25 or otherwise) on the way out.

The problem with developing a whole new airframe (NGAD) is that if it must be VLO entirely, then it is going to be quite large to haul the gas necessary to have a combat radius of 1000nm or 1500nm or ??? Large aircraft mean heavy aircraft. Which means kinematic challenges and fiscal challenges (since aircraft are still bought by the pound.) Let's face it, you're not going to get an RC-5A / F-111 / YF-23+ sized aircraft for cheap, nor one with with super duper kinematics.

(Either elsewhere in this thread, or another thread, it was posited that the YF-23 had substantially greater range than the F-22. This claim was made without proof or citing any sources. Someone else suggested the F-23 may have had a 800nm combat radius. My point here being... that the F-23 may have had to be quite a bit larger to haul enough gas for a 1500nm radius... and that increased size would have adversely affected it's kinematic performance. FWIW.)



The disposable drop tanks has some merit. Assuming you can make them cost-effective???

Also, I would like to see a tanker version of the forthcoming B-21 Stealth Bomber. That could get in much closer to the enemy and refuel our fighters, bombers, and maybe even drones! Plus, the increase numbers would drive down the cost of the B-21. Maybe to the point that we could sell some to a number of key allies! Which, will increase numbers even further...
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Corsair1963

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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 07:12

The US Navy has revealed more information on its plans for a sixth generation fighter jet, commonly referred to as F/A-XX.

The service branch is leading a development program, called Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD), to replace its F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Gregory Harris, who leads the chief of naval operation’s air warfare directorate, has said the aircraft following the Super Hornets will “most likely be manned,” but the NGAD program will include a mix of both manned and unmanned platforms.

The programme is separate to the US Air Force’s own NGAD programme, which includes an aircraft to eventually replace the F-22. Last week a report was published which included concept art of the US Air Force’s new fighter jet.

Harris said: “As we look at it right now, NGAD is a family of systems, which has as its centrepiece the F/A-XX… It’s the fixed-wing portion of the Next-Gen Air Dominance family of systems.

“But we truly see NGAD as more than just a single aircraft. We believe that as manned-unmanned teaming comes online, we will integrate those aspects of manned and unmanned teaming into that,” he continued. “Whether that – we euphemistically refer to it as our little buddy – is an adjunct air-to-air platform, an adjunct [electronic warfare] platform, discussion of could it be an adjunct advanced early warning platform. We’ll have to replace the E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye] at some point in the future, so as we look to what replaces that.”

Harris said the US Navy has divided work on the NGAD programme into two parts: increment one will determine the replacement for the Super Hornets, while increment two will assess the follow-on for the EA-18G Growler.

While the service has used F/A-XX to refer to the F/A-18 E/F replacement, NGAD refers to the family of systems as a whole.

“We’re going through the study portions of what Inc two will be to replace the EA-18G Growler. And we expect that that family of systems will be a combination of manned and unmanned,” Harris said.

“Right now – notionally – looking at driving towards an air wing that has a 40-60 unmanned-manned split and overtime shift that to a 60-40 unmanned-manned split. So to try to drive an air wing that is at least 50% or more unmanned over time,” he added.

The NGAD programme is currently in the “concept refinement phase,” which is when the US Navy will work with industry partners to determine the latest technology and whether it could pursue an unmanned fighter aircraft. Harris expects the Navy to have “a better idea” within the next two or three years as to whether it will buy a manned or unmanned fighter to follow the Super Hornets.

“That concept refinement phase and the teams that we have with our prime air vehicle vendors will start to advise what’s in the realm of possible, has autonomy and artificial intelligence matured enough to be able to put a system inside an unmanned platform that has to go execute air-to-air warfare,” Harris said. “I think air-to-air warfare is one of, if not the most, complex ones to try to put into autonomy.”


https://www.aero-mag.com/us-navy-f-a-xx ... -20042021/
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Corsair1963

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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 08:20

If, the NGAD Stealth Fighter is to be powered by two Adaptive Cycle Engines. (XA100 or XA101) It would have to be quite large.....(bigger than F-22)

Plus, just think of how much fuel such a fighter would have to carry. In order to have a respectable range. Which, according to most source would be even better than the F-35's. That is already exceptional......


:|
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hornetfinn

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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 12:02

F-35 is one of the longest ranged fighter aircraft in existence as it is and that's without EFTs or CFTs, both of which could be developed if needed. On Chinese side, Su-35 is the longest ranged fighter we have decent info about and they are likely about equal to F-35. I don't think J-20 has much better range than either Su-35 or F-35. But big problem for China is that their attack aircraft are old tech, short ranged and not stealthy. Same with their bomber force. They can reach Taiwan easily, but will have trouble getting much further than that even without significant opposition. They will need to acquire a large number of long ranged next generation attack aircraft and bombers for any kind of serious military operations against US and allied forces. They also don't have significant aerial refueling capacity which would be needed for long distance operations.

F-35 has plenty of range for many missions even for Pacific Ocean. With air-to-air refueling far away from Chinese reach, they can still strike very far, even quite deep inside China if needed. Israelis did very long distance strikes in 1980s with F-16s and F-15s with and without aerial refueling. They also flew long distances at very low levels which F-35 would not need to do. Of course such missions would be done only against very selected targets as they'd take up a lot of time and resources.

Of course having more range and endurance would be better but like others have stated, that significantly more than in F-35 is going to be expensive. No matter how much digital engineering and agile development is done, it's still going to cost a lot of money if performance is otherwise high. So maybe solution is something else than F-22 kinematics with intecontinental range.
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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 13:27

I think for USN, replacing Growlers with unmanned system or more likely with manned-unmanned team is likely at some point. I think we may see something like a modern EA-6B Prowler, an aircraft with focus on range, endurance and internal space rather than high flight performance. Capability would be used to work with and control the unmanned part of the team. Unmanned part of the team would go closer to the enemy and do most of the dirty work (EW emissions and firing ARMs for example).

I see more challenges with teaming manned and unmanned systems for wide scale air-to-air and air-to-ground operations, especially for carrier operations. Say we have a manned Strike Fighter squadron of like 12 F-35Cs. How many UCAVs and how many control aircraft would be needed to achieve similar effectiveness? How much fuel do they need for that and how much maintenance is needed? F-35C is extremely flexible that it can do VLO stealth attacks with limited internal weapons and also do "beast mode" operations with huge amount of weapons. Operationally some F-35Cs could work in VLO mode and others work in "beast mode". What can those unmanned aircraft do in similar situation? Basically I think that in near future UCAVs can not do any "beast mode" things and will likely be a lot less flexible in many situations than manned aircraft. They might also need more fuel and will likely need much more support from other assets. So overall they might be more difficult to support than F-35Cs for example. Of course at some point we will likely end up with full fighter sized UCAV with even better capabilities than F-35C.
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ricnunes

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Unread post21 Apr 2021, 14:24

hornetfinn wrote:Of course at some point we will likely end up with full fighter sized UCAV with even better capabilities than F-35C.


I basically agree with your post except for the part that I'm quoting above.
The problem is that a "full fighter sized UCAV with even better capabilities than F-35C" would be more expensive than a F-35C while at the same time still being more limited than a manned F-35C (specially when/if backed up by 'AI'), this in the foreseeable future.
“Active stealth” is what the ignorant nay sayers call ECM and pretend like it’s new.
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steve2267

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Unread post22 Apr 2021, 02:36

The Navy babbling on about a Growler replacement suggests to me that the USN still doesn't get stelph nor truly understands 5th (or 6th) gen ops. Since 5th / 6th gen, by definition, includes VLO technology in the baseline, and since SH/G will be going away, and since jamming power required drops with stelph, where is the need for a super duper jamming machine? What do the admirals propose to do with their Growler follow-on... drive downtown Bejing bouncing trons off all the buildings?

Regarding a longer ranged aircraft, one that can operate off the weight limited carrier decks, honestly an F-35 spin-off or mod offers a helluva lot of bang for the buck. The F-35 platform basically has the power generation necessary already built in for directed energy weapons. The stelph is baked in. Stretching the F-35C could add a bunch of gas, and stretch the weps bays so that you might be able to actually conceal a useful hypersonic weapon, not to mention LRASM etc. I'm not willing to say a fuselage stretch drops wave drag enough to get you any sort of supercruise capability, because your skin friction drag is going to increase and your weight goes up (so induced drag goes up at heavier weights).

Regarding UCAV's... the F-35 is already a flying supercomputer... so it can crunch enough 0's and 1's I'm pretty sure, to run whatever AI you wanna stick in it. Make the cockpit an optional module... so it can be removed and replaced by tankage... and your F-35UC just got a bunch more range.

Back to my suggestion about disposable, paper drop tanks. Yeah, that idea only works if they are 1) reliable and 2) cheap. (Part of reliable implies that they separate cleanly and don't eph up the VLO signature of the plane.) But here's another hairbrained idea about drop tanks... LM and others have already created flying machines with really slick foldable wings -- LRASM, AGM-158 JASSM, MALD etc. What if you slapped some foldable wings on the drop tanks and integrated a small turbojet on the sucker. After you nearly suck the tanks dry, you have the option of dropping the tanks and they RTB by themselves... OR you can use them as dumb MALD's to go make some radar guy get all excited.

With regard to the drop tanks... I believe I recall someone stating 600gal EFT's were under consideration at one point for the F-35. Two 600gal tanks gets you around an extra 8200lb of gas, or nearly a 45% increase in fuel compared to an F-35A. If/when the ADVENT engine(s) get here, if they can deliver 30% increased range... then you're talking about an F-35 potentially having a combat radius of upwards of 1200-1300nm. The costs to get there would be, in my estimation, a fraction of what it will cost to develope an entirely new airframe from scratch.
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post22 Apr 2021, 03:41

steve2267 wrote:With regard to the drop tanks... I believe I recall someone stating 600gal EFT's were under consideration at one point for the F-35. Two 600gal tanks gets you around an extra 8200lb of gas, or nearly a 45% increase in fuel compared to an F-35A. If/when the ADVENT engine(s) get here, if they can deliver 30% increased range... then you're talking about an F-35 potentially having a combat radius of upwards of 1200-1300nm. The costs to get there would be, in my estimation, a fraction of what it will cost to develope an entirely new airframe from scratch.

Yup. If the EFTs do materialize I suspect we will see them jettisoned along with the pylon F22-style. While I am not sure if that would return the jet to its lowest RCS profile, it would have to come close.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/2 ... good-thing

https://theaviationist.com/2014/08/08/f ... -jettison/

The predicted range increase is ~40%. Meanwhile GE are claiming a possible bump of 35% with their XA100.

https://www.flightglobal.com/analysis/a ... 51.article

So the adaptive cycle engine potentially takes the F35A's strike radius (currently listed as ~670nm) out to around ~900nm, while the EFTs (alone) would take it to ~930nm. The new engine with the EFTs gives you ~1100nm, which eclipses the often cited 1000nm threshold for NGAD.
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